Hi, in case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a medieval nerd. So I jumped at the chance to read The Tale of the Tailor and the Three Dead Kings early. This is a beautiful edition of a medieval story, translated from an early twentieth century Latin edition by Dan Jones (to call him the author of the story is a bit misleading, as this is a story put down in writing by an anonymous monk in the fifteenth century). A wonderfully gloomy story to keep you chilly while curled up with a blanked and a hot drink inside.
Many thanks to Head of Zeus for sending me a review copy and having me as part of the blog tour! All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 07/10/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: One winter, in the dark days of King Richard II, a tailor was riding home on the road from Gilling to Ampleforth. It was dank, wet and gloomy; he couldn’t wait to get home and sit in front of a blazing fire.
Then, out of nowhere, the tailor is knocked off his horse by a raven, who then transforms into a hideous dog, his mouth writhing with its own innards. The dog issues the tailor with a warning: he must go to a priest and ask for absolution and return to the road, or else there will be consequences…
First recorded in the early fifteenth century by an unknown monk, The Tale of the Tailor and the Three Dead Kings was transcribed from the Latin by the great medievalist M.R. James in 1922. (from Head of Zeus)
OPINIONS: Beautifully produced edition of a medieval text including both the translation accessible for the lay reader and the Latin original for medievalists – yes please. I wish there were more books like this, and I hope this does really well so Head of Zeus considers making this sort of book a series and publishing them in regular intervals, because this is exactly why I fell in love with medieval writing back in undergrad and I think many more people would if they had easy access through stories like The Tale of the Tailor and the Three Dead Kings.
In terms of the story itself, this is a wonderful example of how wild and wacky medieval literature gets – This is just such an odd little story that makes little sense in itself and is largely a morality tale in the end. But it’s a wonderful story to read while curled up this time of year. I was particularly amused by the fact that the manuscript had been altered to hide the name of the ghost as he was likely someone of importance whose relations one did not want to offend. Obviously now the nerd in me really would like to know who was named, and when the name was removed…
All in all, this is a delightful little book and if you enjoy quirky stories and a bit of history with your reading I recommend you pick this one up. I might make it an autumn tradition to read it with a hot chocolate on a cold night, ideally when there is snow, in honour of Snowball, our poor tailor. You can get your own copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).